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Iranian Group Offers Rushdie Bounty

October 10, 1998 GMT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ A hard-line Iranian student group has offered more than $330,000 for anyone who kills author Salman Rushdie, the second bounty on the British author’s head.

The move, reported in an Iranian newspaper today, came just a month after the relatively moderate government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the death edict and an earlier reward of $2.5 million.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had portrayed the move as a way to improve ties that have remained strained over the issue and agreed to exchange ambassadors.

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Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa, or religious edict, on Rushdie in 1989, claiming his book ``The Satanic Verses″ blasphemed Islam. The semiofficial Khordad Foundation later offered the initial reward to anyone who killed Rushdie.

The Association of Hezbollah University students said despite Kharrazi’s pledge, they were still ready to carry out the death sentence against Rushdie and were willing to pay $333,333 to any person who killed him, Kayhan newspaper reported today.

The paper did not say where the students would obtain the money.

Powerful government hard-liners, dismayed over Khatami’s efforts to improve ties with the West since he took office last year, were not happy with the government position on Rushdie.

Last week, more than half the members of Iran’s hard-line parliament signed a letter saying the death sentence stands.

Rushdie had spent nearly a decade in hiding since Khomeini issued the edict. He recently voiced relief the ordeal was over.